Legendary Marines: Colonel Archie Van Winkle

Carl | June 26, 2013 

Colonel Archie Van Winkle earned the Medal of Honor as a staff sergeant during the Korean War for leading a daring charge during which a bullet shattered his arm and an enemy hand grenade exploded against his chest.

The action came during the night of 2 November 1950, near Sudong, Korea. SSgt Van Winkle, an infantry platoon sergeant, led the charge through withering enemy fire until felled by the grenade. Even then he refused to be evacuated, and continued to shout orders and encouragement to his men while lying on the ground weak from loss of blood. His heroic leadership enabled the outnumbered platoon to repulse a fanatical enemy attack.

Congressional Medal Of Honor Award

President Harry S. Truman presented him the Nation’s highest decoration during ceremonies, 6 February 1952, at the White House. The following day he was sworn in as second lieutenant by Gen Lemuel C. Sheperd, Jr., Commandant of the Marine Corps, having qualified under the “meritorious noncommissioned officer” program.

A combat veteran of World War II, he was called to active duty with the Marine Corps Reserve after the outbreak of hostilities in Korea and was released to inactive duty 16 July 1951.

Born 17 March 1925 in Juneau, Alaska, Archie Van Winkle attended public school in Darrington, Washington. An ardent athlete, he captained both the boxing and football teams at Darrington High School, where he also played baseball and basketball. He entered the University of Washington in Seattle to study physical education, but left after a few months to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve on 14 December 1942.

During almost three years of active duty, he served as an aviation radioman-gunner and mechanic, participating in the Solomons, Philippines and Emirau operations. On 22 October 1945, he received his honorable discharge.

He continued his studies in physical education for two years at Everett Junior College and for another year at the University of Washington. In March 1948, he rejoined the Reserve and became a member of Company A, 11th Infantry Battalion, in Seattle.

The battalion was mobilized and ordered to Camp Pendleton, California, on 7 August 1950. Late that month he arrived in Korea and participated in the Inchon landing. On 2 November he was wounded in combat near Sudong, Korea, during the action which earned him the Medal of Honor.

Evacuated to Japan and later to the United States, he subsequently served for several months with the Marine guards at the Naval Base, Bremerton, Washington. He was released from active duty on 16 July 1951 and was attached to the 10th Infantry Battalion, USMCR, in Seattle. Later recalled to active duty, he attended Basic School at Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia, from November 1952 to May 1953.

First Lieutenant Van Winkle completed Air Observation School at Quantico that November and was assigned as an Air Observer with the 3d Marine Division then at Camp Pendleton. He was later Assistant G-3 of Force Troops, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, then served as a company executive officer and company commander, respectively, with the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division. He was promoted to captain on 31 December 1954 and in 1955, he was assigned as Regimental Liaison Officer, 9th Marines.

From November 1955 until April 1958, he served as Assistant Officer in Charge of the Marine Corps Recruiting Station, Indianapolis, Indiana. In May 1958, he was named Commanding Officer of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Newport News. Following two years in this assignment, he was assigned to the college degree program at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in History in June 1961.

Transferred to Hawaii that month, Capt Van Winkle was assigned as a company commander with the 3d Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine Brigade. In April 1962, he became Director of the 1st Marine Brigade Schools and was credited with the establishment of a Brigade Guerrilla Warfare School. Earlier, as part of a special observer group sent to Vietnam in late February 1962, he was commended by Gen Paul D. Harkins, USA, head of the United States Military Assistance Command in Vietnam, and Admirals H.D. Felt and J.H. Sides, CINCPAC, and CINCPAC Fleet commanders, respectively. He was promoted to major in August 1962.

In June 1964, Maj Van Winkle reported to the Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Upon graduation in June 1965, he was assigned duty as Manpower Analyst and, later, Head, Operating Forces Section, Manpower Control Branch, G-1 Division, at Headquarters Marine Corps. While serving in his capacity, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel, 1 July 1967.

Lieutenant Colonel Van Winkle’s next duty assignment was in the Republic of Vietnam. He served consecutively as Commanding Officer, 2d Battalion, 1st Marines; G-3 Operations Officer, 1st Marine Division; and as Assistant G-3, Task Force X-Ray, Sub Unit #1, 1st Marine Division, from August 1967 to September 1968, and earned the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V.” A Gold Star in lieu of a second Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” was awarded him for heroic achievement on 6 July 1968 on Hill 689 near Khe Sanh Combat Base. He also received the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Gold Star.

After his return to the United States, he was again assigned to the G-1 Division at Headquarters Marine Corps, this time as Head, Standards and Utilization Section, Manpower Control Branch. He retired from service in February 1974.

Colonel Van Winkle died on 22 May 1986 in Ketchikan, Alaska. His remains were cremated and scattered at sea.

A complete list of his medals and decorations include: the Medal of Honor; the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” and Gold Star in lieu of a second award; the Purple Heart; the Presidential Unit Citation; the Navy Unit Commendation with one bronze star; the American Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three bronze stars; the World War II Victory Medal; the National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star; the Korean Service Medal with two bronze stars; the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Gold Star, the Vietnam Service Medal with three bronze stars; the United Nations Service Medal; the Philippine Liberation Ribbon; two Korean Presidential Unit Citations; and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Reprinted with the authorization of the Marine Corps History Division


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